Toby Young’s spurious claim that the BBC’s election coverage had a left-wing bias

The columnist will only be happy when we stop worrying and love the Tories


Columnist Toby Young has manufactured a huff about the BBC’s coverage of the general election. In a piece for the Mail on Sunday he complained the coverage betrayed the public broadcaster’s left-wing bias. His evidence is, to say the least, a bit thin.

He begins by saying the BBC hosts of the election result were surprised by the exit poll showing a much better result for the Tories and a much worse result for Labour than they expected.

If this is true, it’s no less true for any other broadcaster or anyone else, since the exit poll results were so different to what most people expected based on the neck-and-neck poll results we had seen for weeks.

Having set up a false premise, Young warms to his theme:

“The reason the election result must have come as such a shock to the high-ups at the BBC is because its coverage of Ed Miliband and Labour has been so sympathetic for the past five years. Scarcely a week passed without a ‘yoof’ documentary on BBC3 about food banks or ‘the bedroom tax’ – in reality, a benefit cut – while the news that two million jobs had been created since 2010 hardly got a look in.”

You will notice how Young slips from talking about pro-Labour bias to the BBC covering stories he’d rather not be covered, because they reflect badly on the government. It’s possible he can’t tell the difference, but what’s more likely is he elides the two things on purpose.

The last point about jobs is more disturbing, in that it sounds as if he won’t be happy until the BBC is running pro-government propaganda. Just imagine what a programme about jobs being ‘created’ by the Tories could possibly be like and you’ll see what I mean.

Of course, even our Toby can’t avoid facts, so he puts them in – in order to dismiss them.

“There are some honourable exceptions – David Dimbleby, Andrew Neil and Nick Robinson are all fantastic broadcasters who take their duty of impartiality seriously.”

What he means is they’re as left-wing as Downton Abbey.

Andrew Neil, who conducted most of the interviews during the BBC coverage (and is a good and equal-opportunity interviewer), is a former editor of the Sunday Times  and current chairman of the Spectator. Robinson was a youth activist for the Conservative party. Dimbleby, who studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford, as did Robinson, was a member of the Bullingdon Club, and is well known to be literally the voice of authority and fusty tradition as a fixture of BBC reverence.

Andrew Marr, who Young doesn’t mention but who was on the BBC panel for most of the night, is a monarchist and master of giving front bench politicians an easy ride. (That’s why they go on his programme.)

Does Toby Young ever pause to wonder why so many hosts on the supposedly left-wing BBC are obvious conservatives?

Young closes with a hint at why he was commissioned by the Mail to write this piece:

The Beeb’s Royal Charter is coming up for renewal next year, and that will be a golden opportunity to expose the Flat Earth Society to the commercial realities of the digital age.

It will be interesting to see how many more seats the Tories will win in 2020 if they’re competing on a level playing field.”

It’s pretty remarkable to look at the British media and complain the deck is stacked against the right. Aside from the newspapers – almost all of which are very right-wing, and two of which are liberal on some issues – the BBC itself actually shares and trades in a number of right-wing assumptions – about the economy, about the monarchy, about Europe etc. But this is irrelevant when it comes to writers like Toby Young.

We heard these menacing noises about charter renewal when the BBC rightly sacked Jeremy Clarkson (another conservative) for punching a co-worker.

Mr Young, a leader of the Tories’ free schools ‘revolution’, having failed to provide any evidence of active left-wingery at the Beeb, sounds like what he really wants is for the broadcaster to realise how wonderful the Tories are and conduct themselves accordingly. Because in a ‘level playing field’, how could anyone not vote Tory?

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter


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29 Responses to “Toby Young’s spurious claim that the BBC’s election coverage had a left-wing bias”

  1. blarg1987

    He is just copying Fox News on his version of fair and balanced.

    Perhaps we should look at his pieces on the general election and see how fair and balanced his articles were, and if they were not then he can not claim to be of the middle ground.

  2. James Chilton

    As Toby Young exemplifies, Tory journalists are often stupid people acting according to their natural disposition.

  3. Harold

    Never thought of the BBC as left wing, always seen by me as a conservative organisation, but I assume as it does not mirror the Daily Heil then it is left wing. We are going to get a lot of this for the next five years.

  4. Harold

    BBC never commented on the £250Bn the Tories borrowed in the last five years, more than all the Labour Governments put together, indeed they let Tories continue to claim they were; “paying down the debt”

  5. Gerschwin

    Not to worry Adam Barnett old boy the Tory party plans to make the license fee voluntary so I’m sure the BBC will be just fine as it’s such a loved and respected beacon of impartiality – eveyone’ll be falling over themselves to pay that money no doubt.

  6. Gerschwin

    He doesn’t claim to be middle ground and he fully admits to being right wing and writing right wing articles. That’s why he writes for the Mail and Speccie mainly. Man you people are thick.

  7. Gerschwin

    No you won’t. In five years there’ll be no BBC so no need to worry about that. Joy.

  8. Gerschwin

    That’s because they would have had to point out the borrowing was to pay the Labour debt, they’d have been crying into their beards.

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    “U PEOPLE”

    Ahh, PC bigotry, what would you do without it.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    “Labour debt”. Oh, the recovery, which you borrowed to halt. Yea.

  11. Leon Wolfeson

    So you’ll scrap it all for short-term gains, screw the country over. Same old.

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    Which MP’s committee meeting were you told that in?

  13. blarg1987

    In which case then, his argument is based on sand, as he can’t claim the BBC is left wing if freely admits he is right wing in his views. Which shows he has a vested interest that should be challenged.

  14. Gerschwin

    He can claim whatever he likes, if he can prove and argue his point then where he’s coming from is neither here nor there. The Guardian try it every day!

  15. stevep

    From my perspective, I thought the BBC presenters on the Friday morning when the results were still coming in had nothing short of glee on their faces when they realised the conservatives were going to be able to form a majority government.

  16. Pete Rossetti

    Labour debt – sorry this debt was created by the mistake of not letting the banks go to the wall.

  17. USPnet

    Ironically, the handful of “known righties” are more likely to be scrupulously “just slightly leftie” to counteract precisely this sort of examination. The rabid remains of the BBC – ie the hacks like Victoria Derbyshire – make no effort to conceal their proclivities. And don’t forget Andrew Marr is married to a member of a Graun/Labour dynasty. Do not deny that the BBC’s go-to gang of Guardianistas was always on hand for comment throughout the election.

    And I attach a copy of a photo taken (at great personal risk) at the secret BBC staf parade ground where a new intake of commssionaires is being put through their paces to welcome John Whittingdale. Just out of shot is Polly Toynbee barking the commands: “Left… Left… Left… Left… Left…”

  18. oblivia

    So how did Labour lose?

  19. USPnet

    They were simply playing down the wrong line – and their supporters all believed their own unquestioning hype without really looking beyond the media/political bubble. In an election you don’t need to convince your own supporters – you need to appeal to the rest, and labour’s sneering tribal tendency does not offer much of a welcome.

  20. Asteri

    Toby Young’s dad came up with the word ‘meritocracy’ and his son sums up the opposite of everything that word means.

  21. oblivia

    It’s almost impossible for the BBC to be seen as unbiased by people who have lost their grip on reality. The news typically has some kind of grounding in fact, which creates an unavoidable bias against paranoid fantasies.

  22. blarg1987

    In which case, he is giving journalists a bad name and should not be in that profession.

  23. DeDeeMac

    Why not face the truth, there is no democracy, every government is a slave to the international banking elite, and in turn so are we all, they will push us as far as they can, rob us of as much as they can, until we say no more….and then the culling will start

  24. Gerschwin

    So what? That ain’t your call.

  25. sarntcrip

    another one fooled poor you

  26. Rosemary Stewart

    Does any one ever remember the above Toby Young winning on the programme “Come Dine with Me” ?? Actually , as far as I remember, his wife advised him on every everything he was “cooking”.!!
    Bet he doesn’t mention that he appeared on “Come Dine…” on his CV. Should we take anything he says seriously??.

  27. Pete Rossetti

    Sorry I think you misunderstand me – this was no a ‘Labour Debt”.
    The debt as a %’age of GDP was falling up to 2007 – then the shit hit the fan and the Tories mates in the city were bailed out.
    A big mistake.

    Anyway to try and run a country like a grocers shop (AKA Thatcherism) is ridiculous. No need to eliminate debt -just manage it.

  28. Harold

    You forgot the difference between debt and deficit the £250 Bn was added to the national debt above what Osborne predicted

  29. madasafish

    SO no austerity then and Labour have been lying for 5 years about it.

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